Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease worldwide, a series of efforts have been made to educate, inform, and sensitise everyone on nature, preventive, and developments as they unfold. The use of traditional and social media has been useful in the last few weeks in taming the novel virus that struck mankind like the thunder. The severity of the problem at hand continues to drive the respective governments, international and local health institutions to update all on the dos and don’ts on the pandemic that knows to race, class, or religion.
The contrary appears to be the case regarding the people living in villages and rural communities. There is hardly anything they enjoy from the state in terms of social security and basic amenities. No regular electricity supply, bad roads everywhere, no water, and poor healthcare. For them to charge their mobile phones, they would have to congregate at a local shop and pay to charge their phones. The cable channel is completely unaffordable and a sheer luxury while access to newspapers, electronic and social media is also a mirage.
According to the United States of America’s Human Rights Watch, Nigeria’s informal sector include more than 80 percent of a wide range of occupations from street traders, taxi drivers, farmers, tradesmen, artisans, food vendors, barbers, and hairdressers. A telephone interview was conducted on some respondents randomly selected across some states in the geo-political zones of Nigeria. The respondents comprise uneducated persons living in cities, villages and are rural dwellers. Findings showed that almost all the respondents exhibit similar traits suggesting that they were ill-informed. They do not know the correct name of the disease.
Various names were given such as ‘corovirus’, ‘corolla virus’, ‘coroba vilus’, and ‘cofid virus’, among others. The implication of this is that they are either completely ignorant or have a faint idea of the deadly disease. The respondents ascribed the disease to the rich and affluent in society. They hold the belief that the sin of man was responsible for the pandemic and was also of the opinion that they can never be afflicted by the virus because they are not rich. The consequence of the wrong perception is that our rural dwellers and uneducated citizenry continue to live their normal lives as if nothing is happening by violating social distancing, maintaining low personal hygiene, and failing to disclose strange health conditions to relevant authorities.
They are also angry and showing apathy that relief items and palliatives are not sent to them due to discrimination and corruption in the management of the commodities by the elites. With this kind of mindset and disposition by a critical segment of the Nigerian populace, there is an urgent need to restrategise to reach out to these people, educate them appropriately, and cater for their needs. Failure to do so could bring about monumental disasters and rubbish the success story recorded so far by Nigeria. This call became imperative considering the current and community infection stage of coronavirus because if the rural communities are not well protected, there is bound to be more casualties, as most of them are ill-informed and are from good medical facilities. This makes villagers and community-based residents vulnerable to the virus.
Ordinarily, information easily gets to the grassroots through churches, mosques, market/trader groups, and residents associations. Unfortunately, the lockdown directives in the states have made it almost impossible for the people to congregate and obtain such key information at this period. This vacuum has largely been responsible for why a lot of people are ill-informed about the disease in the country. To ensure that the war on how to end is successful, there is an urgent need to focus on implementing programmes that can increase awareness among the villagers. These would entail meeting with the traditional rulers to deploy the use of town criers and street to street campaigns using the mobile public address system.
Those communicating the message should be adequately equipped with up-to-date information, fluent in local/native languages, and familiar with the culture of the people. This should be carried out immediately, sustained and give room for feedback on how the communication channel can be improved. In addition to consumables, protective kits, sanitisers, and hand-washing facilities should be provided for the rural people free of charge. It is rather unfortunate that the National Orientation Agency appears not active enough in sensitising the rural populace in this regard. It should be appreciated that about 70 percent of Nigeria’s population lives in rural areas and are responsible for about 75 percent of the country’s food production.
This is a clarion call on individuals and corporate donors to accord priority to the local communities by directly touching their lives. Family heads should ensure that health disseminated permeates to the entire household. It is not too late to make a redress by reaching out to the rural dwellers, villagers, and uneducated fellow citizens living in slums and rural cities. The fight against COVID-19 should not be selective and one-sided; it should be all-embracing, comprehensive, and total.